Turkey may lose cases at ECHR after top court’s order not implemented – expert

A Turkish local court’s refusal to implement Constitutional Court’s order to release two journalists put Turkey in a difficult position before international courts, a legal scholar said.

Turkey’s top court issued a ruling on Thursday, ordering the release of journalists Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan, and set a precedent by saying that their 17-monhs-long detention based of weak evidence has violated their rights.

In an unprecedented move, local court refused to comply with Constitutional Court’s order the next day, saying the top court “exceeded its authority.”

Turkish government also backed the local court in a series of statements.

Kerem Altıparmak, an academic who teaches human rights law, was quoted by Birgün newspaper as saying that Turkey may lose cases at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) because of the decision.

ECHR, where Turkey tops the number of rights violations, accepts applications only if the domestic legal objections are exhausted.

Turkey allowed individuals to apply to the Constitutional Court in 2013 as a domestic remedy before the ECHR route, in a project supported by the Council of Europe.

Lawyers of Alpay and Altan have also used the individual applications route, Birgün said.

Since the Constitutional Court’s order is not implemented, Turkey loses its argument that it is an effective legal route, Altıparmak said.

The ruling on Alpay and Altan set a precedent by saying that journalists’ public remarks or articles cannot be used as a sufficient evidence for “aiding terrorist organisations” charges, Altıparmak said.

“If the Constitutional Court’s ruling is a legal precedent, then many journalists who were detained based on similar evidence should not only be released but also be acquitted,” Altıparmak was quoted as saying.

“If it does not set a precedent, then Turkish citizens can apply to ECHR directly, without waiting for Constitutional Court,” he said.